Speech Team delivers important skills and a lifetime of memories


Photo by Andrea Hernandez

Speech Team members practice for the upcoming competition season.

By Emily Heath, Reporter

Last month, the West Chicago Community High School Speech Team began preparations for the tremendous competition season they have ahead.  

Speech Team is an IHSA competition group in which each member of the team has a specialized event to participate in. Some of these events include dramatic interpretation, radio broadcasting, poetry, and informative speaking.

What makes Speech Team special is the individualism within the group as a whole. Each of the 16 members has the opportunity to compete in one or more events to score points for their team, and three participants use this to their advantage. Each speech acts as both a performance and a competition, and those who do well move on to the finals. These independent efforts allow each member of the team to not only create their own role, but to also have their voice heard. 

Captain of the team, junior Sofia Tamayo, described the experience: “We are all going through the same thing like waking up early, getting on a bus in the cold spending our entire Saturday at a random school, competing in rounds, etc. We become close and invested in the success of the others that it becomes a team effort rather than an individual effort- we all may compete in different events but at the end of the day, we are a team sharing one common goal.”

Tamayo has been a part of the Speech Team since her freshman year at West Chicago Community High School, and was personally asked by Head Coach and English teacher Paul Lichy to lead the team in this upcoming season. Tamayo has made multiple sacrifices to represent the team, and holds the position with honor.  

Coach Paul Lichy offers guidance to Speech Team members. (Photo by Andrea Hernandez)

Each member of the team is an important component of the team’s overall success. Each student chooses a category to compete in based on their unique talents and interests. Once they figure out the topic that fits them best as an orator, they attend coaching meetings with one of the multiple coaches, including Lichy, English teacher and WeGo Drama director Mark Begovich, Social Studies teacher Nicole Stadler, and SRC Program Coordinator Julio Alvarez. In these meetings, team members work with a coach to prepare one-on-one for their event, focusing on speaking skills, scripts, and anything else that may be a struggle. These meetings are important to each member of the team and play a large role in the overall success of the season. 

Begovich detailed the progression of the year: “Each student is put into a situation where they are then stretched, they are challenged, and they are pushed in their event in order to grow.”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the speech team could not attend any in-person competitions. If they wanted to participate in the 2020-21 season, they would be forced to compete virtually. Each member had to submit a prepared video for their respective events days prior to the competition. The judges would then critique each video, and the top competitors would move to the final round virtually where the winners would be decided.

Senior Speech Team member Jahaira Salinas said, “It was just recordings of our pieces, so it was very hard to get your point across and be able to connect [with] your audience!”

Feedback from peers is a key aspect of the process. (Photo by Andrea Hernandez)

Fortunately, this season will look a little more normal because competitions will be held in-person. However, all attendees will have to wear a mask. 

“I think that other than obviously being able to compete with other people and not a computer screen, I think I really look forward to this speech competition is being able to put these past years of work and dedication into a final speech season, as well as seeing the others grow in skill as well!” said Salinas.

Being on the speech team is a commitment in and out of the individual practices. Beyond the hours spent with the coaches, each member must also practice on their own time. They not only have to memorize scripts but also make sure their timing and delivery are perfect in order to earn points for themselves and the team as a whole. 

Junior Kenya Bahena speaks to her group. (Photo by Andrea Hernandez)

Another captain of the team, junior Kenya Bahena, said she prepares for the tournaments by “meeting with my coach to go over my piece, then I go over it on my own and try to improve and make it the best that I can.”

She then goes on to explain that the preparation is worth it when, “seeing the progress that not only I make, but my teammates make after each meet. Whether that improvement is great or minor, my progress and improvements made is always great to see.”

After countless weeks of preparation, the team attends competitions all around the area every Saturday. They arrive at the competition before the sun rises and leave after the sunsets. The day is filled with the stress of competing, but also allows for a fun time and for new bonds to form with each other. 

While the season just beginning, already the team has seen victories. On November 6, senior and Varsity team member Satindar Grewal took third place in impromptu speaking at the third annual York’s Royal Court competition, and at the Downer’s Grove South Novice Tournament this weekend, senior and newcomer Daniel Canda was awarded third place in impromptu speaking.

Lichy’s love for being a coach is “the thing that has kept me doing this.”

He added, “The reason that I like speech is because of the confidence it builds in students, and the many different ways that you will use the skills.”

The Speech Team is a unique opportunity for students to learn skills that will help them in the future. It is not only an opportunity to improve one’s public speaking abilities, but also a way to make new connections and form bonds that will last a lifetime. It is never too late to join the team, so students who are interested should contact Lichy, Begovich, Stadler, or Alvarez with any questions they may have.